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A wild turkey in the field.
Field Guide -Turkey

6 Turkey Calls to Consider this Spring

When turkey season approaches, it’s time to dust off the old callers and practice your best yelps, clucks, cackles, and purrs. Whether you are a new turkey hunter or the U.S. Open Calling Champion, getting familiar (or re-familiar) with your calls and brushing up on your turkey vocalizations can help you have a more successful hunt.

Just like every turkey is different, every hunt is different. Depending on the season and the day you hunt, you'll encounter unique challenges and variables, including the time of day, weather, environment, wind direction, and other variables. 

So, when thinking through turkey calls for each hunt, make sure you have a good understanding of the options and how to use them. 

When you're prepared with the right calls and skills to use them effectively, you're ready for any circumstances during the hunt. Which calls should you consider this spring? Here are six of the most popular turkey calls to add to your repertoire!

1. Push-button Calls

Push-button calls are well-known for how easy they are to use. However, many experienced hunters prefer not to use them because they believe they are only for beginners. 

While they might be simple, that doesn't mean they aren't effective for hunters of any skill level or experience. Push-button calls can be especially useful when hunting on public land because turkeys on public land learn to avoid certain repetitive sounds. 

With the amount of reed and slate calls vying for their attention on opening day, a simple cluck, purr, or yelp from a push-button call could be the best sound to draw them in. 

How Do They Work?

A push-button call uses the friction of two pieces of wood rubbing together to create sound. 

The caller pushes up and down on a spring-loaded wooden dowel with a block of wood attached to it. As it's pushed down, the wooden block rubs against a pyramid-shaped piece of wood connected to the bottom of the call box. This creates different patterns of sounds depending on how fast or slow you press the dowel.

2. Locator Calls

A locator call used for turkey calls during a hunt.

As you gear up for your next turkey hunt, make sure you pack a locator call. It's a must-have on the hunt! 

Locator calls, unlike other calls, don't imitate turkey sounds. When using a locator call, you don't give up your position. Instead, a turkey thinks there's a crow, owl, or woodpecker and will continue with its business so you can move in and get set up. 

During the spring season, toms will likely respond with a shock gobble to loud, sudden noises like the noise you make with a locator call. After making a call, like a crow call, if you hear a gobble in the distance, check your HuntWise app to learn the terrain as you move toward the bird and get set up. 

How Does a Locator Call Work?

Use locator calls to find a tom in the early morning when he is still on the roost or later in the day to identify his location within a section of timber or field. Depending on the type of locator call you use, there are several different techniques you can use to create more authentic sounds. 

Just make sure you are in a location where you can easily hide in case you call, and a gobbler is already within shooting distance.

3. Slate Calls

A slate call, one of several types of turkey calls.

Slate calls (or pot calls) are another friction-based call. These calls are a round disc or "pot" made of slate, ceramic, or glass paired with a striker. The striker, made of wood, carbon, or aluminum, creates different sounds when in contact with the pot's surface. 

Each slate call creates a distinct sound depending on the materials used for the disc and striker. In general, slate calls are a bit more complicated to operate than a box or push-button call. 

One disadvantage to these calls is that they require both hands to operate, so they are not ideal for hunting at close range. However, their benefits outweigh their negatives. 

"I personally like using a slate call because I can make all the turkey calls I need. Anybody can use these calls, from a beginner to an expert turkey hunter," says Josh Ilderton of The Untamed.  

How Does a Slate Call Work?

What's the trick to using a striker call effectively? The striker scrapes the disc at various angles, speeds, and intensities to create virtually any turkey sound you can think of to help you find nearby birds. 

You're only limited by your knowledge and experience with a slate call!

4. Box Calls

A box call, turkey call concept.

Box calls are popular for turkey hunting because they are easy enough for beginners but versatile enough for experienced hunters and pros. Many skilled hunters claim the box call as their go-to call when turkey hunting. While traditionally made from wood like cedar, mahogany, or walnut, some companies also create weather-proof metal box calls. 

These metal box calls not only withstand harsh weather conditions but also create a crisper sound than a wooden call. With box calls, depending on your skill level, the possibilities are virtually endless. You can create a wide range of sounds with just a little creativity.  

How Does a Box Call Work?

Like a push-button call, a box call uses friction to create sound. A thin wooden box and wooden lid (or paddle) scrape together to create yelps, clucks, cuts, purrs, cackles, whines, and more. 

Master this call, and you'll be irresistible to a tom.

5. Diaphragm Calls

A turkey call diaphragm call.

Diaphragm calls (or mouth calls) are small, horseshoe-shaped devices using a rubber or latex reed that vibrates to create sound. 

"Diaphragm calls aren't the easiest to learn, but once you know how to use one, they are effective because you can be mobile and don't need to use your hands to call," says The Untamed's Josh Ilderton. 

Because hunters control the diaphragm call with the mouth, hunters can continue calling right up until the moment they're ready to take the shot. However, although extremely versatile, diaphragm calls are not as loud as other calls, so you may want to start with a louder call (like a locator or box call) if you want to call in a tom from a distance. 

How Do Diaphragm Calls Work?

Hold the diaphragm call in your mouth, then blow air toward the roof of your mouth. This engages the reed and creates a series of vibrations that produce turkey sounds. 

By changing the pressure of the air and the position of the tongue, hunters can imitate virtually any turkey sound.  

Tips for Beginners

If you have never used a diaphragm call before, set aside plenty of time to practice before opening day. You'll want to be fairly comfortable with these calls before using one on a hunt. 

For beginners, a single reed call is the easiest to operate and best for learning to use a diaphragm call. 

Another important factor in choosing the right diaphragm call is finding the right size call for your mouth. Try multiple sizes until you find the right fit. Then, once you've found a call that feels right for you, you can start practicing some simple yelps, cuts, clucks, and purrs by changing the air pressure and cadence of your voice.

Patience is key to learning how to use a diaphragm call, as they have the steepest learning curve of all the turkey calls.

6. Wing Bone Calls

A wing bone call, turkey call concept.

Many hunters consider the wing bone call the "OG" of turkey calls. 

As the name states, these calls are made from the wing bones of a turkey pieced together to create an instrument that early hunters used to lure in gobblers long before any commercial calls were available. Once the bones are removed from the bird, they are boiled, and the marrow is removed to create a hollow center. 

How a Wing Bone Call Works

These calls are very easy for any hunter to operate. You can create a yelp or a series of yelps by tightening your lips around the end of the wing bone and making a "puckering" or "kissing" sound. 

While these calls aren't very versatile, they are fun to use and allow you to tap into your primitive side.  

How to Choose the Best Turkey Call for Your Hunt

With a variety of turkey calls to choose from, it might be a bit overwhelming to select the right call for your hunt or skill level. 

However, the truth is . . . there is no magic call. 

Because every hunt is different, it's often beneficial to learn several types of calls and have them ready on your hunt to improve your chances of a successful turkey harvest this spring. Gearing up with different call options when on a hunt is always a good strategy, as turkeys can be as unpredictable as the weather. 

If you are new to turkey calling, you may want to start with something simple like a push-button or box call. For more seasoned hunters, a slate or diaphragm call delivers more realistic sounds and versatility to help you fill your tag. 

Or you may want to try your hand at hunting like the early hunters and build your own wing bone call. Whatever you decide, take time to learn how to use your call properly. It could make the difference between filling your tag or coming home empty-handed!  

Don't Leave Home Without the Right Call (and the HuntWise App)

Along with the right calls for your hunt, don't forget to download and use your HuntWise app! Calling helps you locate and draw turkeys in. Then, use the app to mark locations with good, consistent turkey activity for repeated success for every hunt this season (and every season). 

HuntWise subscribers also use the app to identify public or private hunting land and gain access to insights into how turkeys move through the property. Download the app and try it for free! 


Content updated February 6, 2024

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